Answers to Common Resume Questions
When it comes to the topic of how to write a résumé, people seem to have an endless supply of questions. And since your resume may be one of the most important documents you ever have to write, it makes sense that people would want to know as much as possible about the topic. Below are resume questions I am frequently asked. If your question isn't on the list, let us know what it is and I will address your concerns in a follow-up post.
Do you always have to show dates of employment on a resume?
Yes. Employers are skeptical of resumes without dates. They raise a red flag that perhaps the candidate is trying to hide something. In some cases you may not need to report your entire chronology (i.e. when the earlier chronology has no relevance to your job target), or you may consolidate earlier experience into a brief overview paragraph under a heading called "early career," but generally it is best to include employment dates.
Think about what you did that contributed to the success of the team. For clerical jobs, did you improve the filing system, spot errors on invoices that saved the company money, troubleshoot copier issues so you didn't have to call in the technician? For sales jobs, was your drawer always balanced at the end of the day, did you have fewer errors than your co-workers, did you help more customers than the expectation that was set for the job, did you win some sort of formal store recognition, did you keep the lines moving quickly even on busy store days? These are all accomplishments that can help differentiate your performance from others.
How do I handle post-high school education that did not result in attaining degrees and included attendance at multiple schools including online course completion?
You could list the number of credits you have toward a degree if it was part of a college program. If it was a certification program, list the certification and where it was attained. If it was a series of workshops or seminars, list them separately, but only include them if they are relevant to your job target.
How do you write a resume that showcases your core competencies if you are returning to work after child-rearing for 10-15 years?
If you are returning to a similar field, the competencies you had before are still your competencies and should be listed. If you are changing careers, list relevant competencies. For example, as a stay-at home-parent, perhaps you were a class parent or organized school fund-raisers. You can position this experience as having competency in project management, fund-raising, or event planning. The key is to match your competencies to those of the job whenever possible.
How should you handle gaps in your employment chronology?
If you did any volunteer or seasonal work during that time or took a temp job, you can list those experiences to account for some of the time you were not employed full-time.
How do you handle having multiple layoffs that reflect short tenured positions that make you look like a job-hopper?
Write a brief explanation right on the resume following your dates of employment. You can write that the company closed, relocated, or downsized... depending on the situation. This shows the employer that you left because of a business situation, not because you were job hopping.
If you changed careers and have worked in the new industry for a long time, do you list your previous career?
I recommend having a very brief paragraph or even a sentence that explains what the former career was, so your reader has a full understanding of your chronology.
How do people list accomplishments if they have limited professional experience?
Focus on what you achieved in school if you are a recent graduate. List exceptional performance in school, involvement in volunteer activities, or roles on school sports teams. If you held any part-time or summer jobs, show how you met or exceeded the expectations of the job or did better than your peers. Show how you completed tasks on time, kept customers happy, reorganized a display to make it easier for customers to select merchandise, handled customer complaints, served customers quickly, did something for your supervisor to make his life easier, etc. Even a recent high-school or college grad can show contributions.
What word processor format and template is best suited for downloading into a resume text box online?
Save your Word document as Text Only, reopen the document and clean up any alterations to the text. Convert the graphics into charts if relevant and save your "pretty" version for the interview.
Do you have any advice for recent high-school graduates on making their resumes effective?
If you are a recent high-school graduate, list your academic average, awards, advanced-placement courses, and SAT/ACT scores if they were high. You can also list clubs, activities, sports teams, and volunteer activities through school to help you stand out. If high school is your highest level of education, but you are not a recent grad, list the high school and any awards.
For a recent college graduate, is it irrelevant to include any major accomplishments from high school?
It depends. If you won a college scholarship or academic awards, it may make sense to include this information on the resume. If you were a star athlete in high school, you can list that information as well.
If you are a college grad and your internship turned into a part-time job, do you place that first?
If you are a recent graduate place the education first. If you graduated one or more years ago, place the internship/part-time job first if it is relevant to your target job. If it is not, keep the education first until you get some additional, more relevant experience under your belt.
If you transferred between schools, do you list both schools?
Not necessary. Just list the school you graduated from (or are currently enrolled in). Also if you earned an A.A. or A.S. degree and then went on to earn your B.A. or B.S., just list the four-year degree.
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